Great Pyrenees are large, powerful, and thickly coated working dogs initially bred centuries ago to work with shepherds and herding dogs in the Pyrenees Mountains. Their job was to deter predators like wolves, bears, and livestock rustlers.
They’re patient and courageous and usually exhibit a calmness that can turn to action if they meet a threat. Today, this fluffy canine is an excellent choice for service and therapy dogs. You might be wondering how exactly, and we’re going to go through all the reasons the Great Pyrenees makes such an excellent service dog.
What Exactly Is a Service Dog?
What a service dog is has changed as its role has evolved. Back in the 1920s, when you referred to a service dog, it was a guide dog that assisted with a visual or hearing disability. Typically, German Shepherd dogs were used as guide dogs. Now several breeds are used to help with various tasks to assist disabled individuals.
Today, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”1 The ADA also considers service dogs to be working animals, not pets.
The Great Pyrenees as a Service Dog
The Great Pyrenees make excellent service dogs because they have the ideal characteristics for working with humans.
Powerful and Hardworking
Great Pyrenees, known affectionately as Pyrs, generally stand at 32 inches at the shoulder and can weigh more than 100 pounds. There is plenty of power in a dog this size, and they can provide mobility assistance and balance support as a service dog.
They come from a working background, which means they’re no strangers to hard work. There can also be a lot of downtime as a service dog, so you can’t choose an impatient breed. Pyrs are patient, loyal, and fearless and will do anything for their handler, which are all excellent qualities for service dogs.
They can also be strong-willed, which might seem like it would make training them more difficult. While it adds an extra layer of difficulty, it also shows how committed they can be to their work, so this strength of will is a positive trait.
Gentle and Protective
It might seem conflicting for a dog to be gentle and protective, but the Great Pyrenees don’t misuse their strength. They’re popular family guard dogs because they are kind and gentle, but they are willing to use their strength if the situation calls for it. This is particularly helpful if the person they are protecting is very young or elderly, isn’t mobile, or cannot perceive a threat or defend themselves.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) shared a story of a Pyr named Gunner who helped a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hamilton Kinard also suffered from extensive nerve damage that affected his mobility. Not only did Gunner pull Kinard’s wheelchair when required, but he also acted as a canine “cane” when Kinard was unable to support himself. Gunner provided a distraction when Kinard’s anxiety spiked, and he created a safe space between him and strangers to ensure no one invaded Kinard’s space.
Trainable and Smart
Great Pyrenees come from an 11,000-year lineage of dogs tasked with protecting humans. They’ve worked alongside humans for a long time, but they haven’t always worked side by side with people. This means they’ve had to work situations out for themselves, and it’s something they can still do. They’re used to acting when there are no humans to assist them, which can come across as disobedience.
One Last Thing to Consider
When keeping a service dog, you have to consider that while they aren’t a pet, they need everything a pet does: affection, safety, good quality food, vet visits, and care. Thankfully, Great Pyrenees aren’t high-maintenance dogs.
However, grooming must be maintained to prevent matting and unhealthy fur. While their thick waterproof coats don’t need lots of brushing—brushing them once per week will be enough—they shed year-round. Because they’re so large and their white fur is so visible, dealing with it can be tricky. Thanks to the shedding, they’re not the best breed if you’re allergic to dog hair or don’t have the time to clean it off clothes and furniture.
The Great Pyrenees make excellent service dogs. They’re patient, loyal, hardworking, and the type of canine you want in your corner. They don’t overreact but are ready to spring into action when required, and the dogs can perform multiple tasks as service dogs. Several breeds are talented at helping humans, but you’re unlikely to find a more devoted companion like the Great Pyrenees.
- You might also like: Do Great Pyrenees Bark a Lot? Reasons for Excessive Barking
Featured Image Credit: Cody Hanson Photography, Shutterstock